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RHS Wisley Unveils Major New Plans

RHS Garden Wisley’s iconic Glasshouse Borders are set to be transformed into an immersive perennial paradise to a brand new design by internationally acclaimed landscape designer Piet Oudolf, who created the original borders over 20 years ago.

The area currently occupied by the borders will be sympathetically redeveloped to create an experiential garden in the New Perennial style for which Oudolf is known. Retaining the much-loved views to the Glasshouse, meandering hillside paths will guide visitors through plant ‘communities’ that naturally support each other.

RHS Wisley’s Curator, Matthew Pottage, says: “When the Glasshouse Borders were first conceived in 2000, the RHS briefed Piet Oudolf to create two parallel borders in his New Perennial style to echo Wisley’s famed Main Borders. While this area has rightly earned much admiration over the years, as we considered the future of the garden we saw an opportunity to create a noteworthy new landscape that would allow visitors to better experience and understand Piet’s signature planting.

“We are delighted that Piet shares our vision and has created a plan that is not only beautiful to look at, but also reflects our changing climate and works in harmony with natural ecosystems. We could not be more excited to bring it to life at Wisley.”

Piet Oudolf adds: “I was waiting for the moment to recreate these borders. So much has changed in how we want to see and experience gardens since the first design was made. Nature, declining diversity of insects and plant species are big issues. My work has developed and fits more in the time we live in.

“A garden like this will give back some of what we seem to have lost in most landscapes around us. What better place to have this garden than at RHS Wisley, where millions of visitors can not only experience this kind of landscape but also learn from it.”

The Oudolf Landscape, as it will be known, covers just under 2 acres (0.8 hectares) and will be one of the largest and most significant examples of the designer’s work anywhere in the UK. Boasting more complex planting than the existing scheme, with over 160 different perennials compared to the current 50, the new landscape will also help increase biodiversity in the garden and reduce the need for irrigation by removing the formal turf vista from the area.

Around a third of the 36,000 perennial plants required to fill the new landscape are being grown in-house by RHS Wisley’s propagation team, having been propagated from existing material in the garden. The scheme also contains 117 species and cultivars that are new to RHS Wisley, which have been chosen for their ornamental appeal, resilience to the changing climate and benefits to wildlife.

However, before work begins to create the new garden, the team must carry out due diligence work to trace a possible colony of protected Roman snails on the site. If found, the snails will be translocated under licence by Natural England to a nearby area of the garden, where they can live safely while the new landscape takes shape.

The charity is currently raising funds to bring the plans to fruition, with the aim to start work on remodelling the landscape in autumn/winter 2023 before opening to the public in summer 2024. Further information about the plans can be found at: rhs.org.uk/oudolflandscape

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This story was published on: 10/03/2023

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